Author Archives: Liz Seegert

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About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert is an independent health journalist and AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. She covers older adults, baby boomers, health policy, and social determinants of health, as well as many other health issues. Her bylines include stories for PBS/NextAvenue.org. the American Journal of Nursing, TIME Health, Medscape, Consumer Reports, and Medical Economics, as well as dozens of other trade and mainstream media. Her articles have been syndicated in Forbes.com, the Los Angeles Times, the Hartford Courant, the Saturday Evening Post and other major outlets.

New legislation may improve advance care planning

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA)

Journalists may want to keep an eye on new companion bills recently introduced in the House and Senate. The legislation would expand access to critical advance planning services in Medicare and allow people with serious illness to access more advance care planning services.

The Improving Access to Advance Care Planning Act would allow social workers to provide advance care planning (ACP) services, remove beneficiary cost-sharing, promote increased education for providers on current ACP codes, and improve reporting on barriers to providing ACP services and billing the corresponding codes. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

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CMS expands popular home and community-based program

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is funding five additional states and territories to expand access to home and community-based services through Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration program.

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Inflation Reduction Act will benefit millions of older adults

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Millions of older adults will soon benefit from lower prescription drug prices and a cap on out-of-pocket costs thanks to landmark legislation signed into law by President Biden today. Continue reading

An uptick in nursing home COVID deaths, cases

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COVID-related nursing home cases and deaths are on the rise again, according to recently published data on AARP’s COVID-19 dashboard. And while these rates are nowhere near the levels of 2020 or early 2021, it’s still a troublesome sign that new COVID variants are making their way into facilities tasked with caring for vulnerable older adults.

Rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths rose in June for the second month in a row — with resident cases increasing by 27% for the four weeks ending June 19. That means about one in every 35 nursing home residents nationally tested positive. Staff positivity rates increased by 42% in the same period — about one in every 28. It’s not clear, however, whether staff were infected in the community or contracted COVID in the nursing home. Death rates are trending up too — increasing by about 54% in June compared with the previous month, according to AARP’s data, which is culled from Information on COVID-19 reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

Journalists can use this data to closely follow trends in their state, or even drill down to an individual facility level.

“We’ve actually had increasing cases for a couple of months now,” said Ari Houser, AARP senior methods advisor and lead data analyst on their nursing home COVID dashboard. “Preliminary CDC data through July 17 shows the trend continuing upward, so we’re not at the peak yet.”

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Older adults sacrifice basic needs to pay for health care

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Rising costs are putting many older adults in an economic bind. Some are skimping on basics like food to pay for health care; others are foregoing health care entirely. Both approaches may have serious long-term health consequences, according to a recent survey from Gallup and West Health.

Over one in three adults 50 and older have forgone basics such as food or utilities to pay for health care. Conversely, some older Americans are skipping needed health visits or medication because of costs. U.S. adults 50-64, women, and Black adults are more likely to cut back on basics, according to the Gallup poll. However, more than a third of adults 65 and older (37%) also said they are concerned about affording needed health care services in the next year.

Journalists can use these results as a starting point for examining the cost of care locally and programs available to help offset health care costs or other basic living expenses. This is particularly relevant as inflation continues to rise forcing more people to choose what to pay for and what to sacrifice.

Adults 50 to 64 are not yet eligible for Medicare, but many are already experiencing health problems. Nearly 50 million adults 50 and older are at a critical age because they will need additional care as they age, Nicole Wilcoxon, Ph.D., research director at Gallup said in a Zoom interview. “Cutting back on care due to cost puts them at risk for more severe illness and even death.”

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